Sad, Somber Saturday

First, the cross

We talk a lot about the cross and how terrible the death of Jesus was.  The story of Peter’s denial of Jesus and the rest of the disciples fleeing from the garden where he was arrested are familiar to us.  It is good that we take time to reflect on the agony, the pain, the shame that Jesus suffered for us on that Friday.

The Resurrection

Then we jump to Sunday morning and the wonderful fact of the resurrection!  The surprise, the doubt, the joy as they realized that Jesus was alive.  Again, it is good that we celebrate this tremendous event, this foundation stone of our faith.

But, what was that Saturday like?

Have you ever wondered what that Saturday was like for the followers of Jesus as they hid behind locked doors?  After the shock, the horror of his death, can you imagine the range of emotions they felt on Saturday?  Sad, somber Saturday!

Of course, there was the sorrow they experienced at the loss of their friend.  I cannot really begin to understand the pain his mother must have felt as she reflected on the suffering he had experienced.  Perhaps she could not even sleep, or fell asleep only to wake up from a nightmare seeing him once again being viciously beaten.

There must have been great confusion.  Questions as they remembered all the miracles he performed, all the parables he had told.  Wondering how he could have come to this end.  Had he not made tremendous promises?  Had he not proclaimed that he was the only way to God?  Had he not even raised a dead man after four days in the tomb?

There must have been great disappointment.  What were they to do now?  They had left their homes, their employment to follow him.  They had been so excited about the kingdom he would set up, even arguing over who would sit on his left and his right hand in that kingdom.

There must have been great fear.  Would the Romans come after them now?  How could they get out of Jerusalem and back to their villages and their old life safely?

Had they really heard Him?

We have the advantage of looking back on history, on knowing how the story turned out.  So it is easy for us to say, “Did they not really hear him?”  After all he had told them that he would be killed and would rise again on the third day.  Did any of them think about that and wonder if it could be true?

We have our Saturdays too

But before we berate them for not really hearing Jesus, not really understanding, not really believing what he said about his death and coming back to life, are we any different today?

When our Fridays of suffering and difficulty come and we face a sad, somber Saturday dealing with the problems we face, do we forget his promises?  He said he would never leave us.  He said we would have tribulation in this world, but to be of good cheer because in him we could overcome.  He said he gave us his peace, not the peace of the world, but that peace that comes from knowing who is in control.

Today, before I rejoice at the resurrection, I ask God to help me in my times of sorrow, confusion, disappointment and fear.  I ask him to remind me that Fridays come and we have sad, somber Saturdays dealing with the problems of Friday, but for the child of God, Sunday is always on the way!

Were You There?

I have been posting each Friday on one of the old hymns/gospel songs of the church.  The hymn selected this week is very appropriate as we are in the Lent season looking forward to Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday.

Almost every hymnal published in the last 50 years or so has this song in its collection.  No one knows exactly who should get credit for the song but it is believed to be rooted in the African-American spirituals.

Each stanza asks a question:

  • Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
  • Were you there when they nailed him to the cross?
  • Were you there when the sun refused to shine?
  • Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?
  • Were you there when the stone was rolled away?

These questions are, of course, rhetorical questions.  Obviously none of us were there when Jesus was crucified or rose from the grave.

These questions are meant to help us recall those events that the disciples wrote about.  At this time of year, these questions are good for us to ponder as we remember what this season is all about.

For slaves in America, this song carried even more meaning.  It comforted them to remember that Jesus Christ knew their suffering and just as God was with Jesus on the cross, He was with them in the midst of their great suffering.  They could truly relate to the pain and sorrow the first verses of this song portray.  The hope that Jesus rose again no doubt gave them hope that some day the chains of slavery would be lifted and they would know true freedom.

Many music stars have recorded this song including Johnny Cash, Phil Keaggy, Marion Williams, Harry Belafonte, and Neil Tennant.

As you listen to this song, I hope you will take a few minutes to reflect on the questions asked and remember the great price Jesus paid for our spiritual freedom.

“Salvation is free, but it came at a great cost.”

If you have missed them, check out my other posts on the old gospel songs/hymns.

My Mother Sang Southern Gospel!

5,000 Songs – Or More!

Even a Sparrow Matters

“My” Hymn – Great is Thy Faithfulness

From “You Are My Sunshine” to “Dawning of the Age of Aquarius”

Recognize This Beloved Song – “Faith’s Review and Expectations”

Who Were the “Them” in Jesus’ Prayer for Forgiveness?

Final notes from my husband’s Good Friday sermons.

Luke tells us in his Gospel that Jesus prayed from the cross “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”  These words were among some of the last brief statements He made before His death.

Who exactly was He speaking to?

  • The Roman soldiers.  They were standing there gambling for His clothes at the foot of the cross as they watched Him die.  It was probably not the first crucifixion detail they had been assigned.  But this one was different.  This man claimed to be the Son of God.
  • Maybe it was the Jewish crowd that had gathered there that day.  They had seen him heal their sick, fed them on occasion and told them all types of parables and stories of God and His kingdom.  Now they had shouted:  “Crucify Him.”
  • Perhaps it was His disciples, especially the ones who had fled and were in hiding.  Only John was present at the cross with Mary, Jesus’ mother.
  • Maybe He saw ahead in time and saw the crowd that stoned Stephen to death.  That crowd was full of hate for Stephen.
  • Perhaps he looked further down in time when the early Christians were martyred in the coliseum of Rome by wild animals.  Surely their persecutors were included in His statement from the cross.
  • What about all the wars that have been fought in the name of religion, the Crusades, the Protestants against Catholics and the Catholics against Protestants?
  • Maybe he saw the barbarians throughout the world who have committed wholesale slaughter of whole groups of people simply because they were different.
  • Or, maybe he looked out to 2019 and saw us when He was there on the cross.  Was he speaking of us as He hung there?  Was it our sin that we have committed day by day, year by year without regard to our own eternity?  Do we realize the total sacrifice that was made for us that day?

Surely He was speaking of me also from the cross that day.

He’s Dead – or Is He?

This is from the message my husband gave today at Hazel Findley Assisted Living:

The Gospel of Matthew as well as other Gospel writers presents the reality of Jesus’ death as an absolute certainty.

Those standing around the cross watched as Jesus “breathed his last.” – John 19:30 tells us He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.

They heard him cry with a loud voice. – Mark 15:37 tells us Jesus cried out with a loud voice and breathed His last.

Roman authorities, acting on instructions from Pilate, broke the legs of the two men crucified with Jesus to hasten their death; but coming to Jesus, they discovered He had already died – John 19:33 says “But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs.

Having received confirmation of death from the Roman centurion, Pilate released the body of Jesus to Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus for burial.

  • The callous Roman soldiers said “He is dead.”
  • The curious crowds, unconscious of the eternal significance, said “He is dead.’
  • Pilate got the word, “Jesus is dead.”
  • Mary, feeling the pain like a dagger in her heart, said, “My son is dead.”
  • His disciples, numb and stunned with the events of the last few hours said, “The Master is dead”

Everybody had written Jesus off – gone forever.

Dead.

Dead.

Dead.

Get on with the same routine.  He’s dead.  No one expected to see Him or hear His voice again.

It’s Friday….but Sunday’s coming.

What separates Christianity from all other religions is an empty tomb and the words of Christ who says “I was dead, and behold I am alive forevermore.”

 

The Miracle of Mount Calvary

The following is from a Good Friday sermon my husband shared this year.  I thought it was so good I wanted to share with my readers:

There are many great mountain top experiences in the Word of God.

  • On Mount Horeb, God spoke to Moses from the burning bush
  • On Mount Sinai, God wrote the Ten Commandments on tablets of stone
  • On Mount Hor, Aaron transferred his priestly robes to his son Eleazar
  • From Mount Nebo, Moses looked over into the Promised Land
  • On Mount Moriah, Solomon built the Temple
  • On the Mount of Transfiguration, Peter, James and John saw Jesus in His radiant glory
  • From the Mount of Olives, Jesus would ascend into heaven

But the greatest of all of these is Mount Calvary, where Jesus was lifted up and died for our sins.

  • On Mount Calvary, Jesus of Nazareth was lifted up, bled and gave HIs life for me
  • On Mount Calvary Jesus, who walked the dusty roads of Judea, who could have called 10,000 angels chose rather to suffer and die
  • On Mount Calvary, God let this sinless, spotless lamb of glory, the Messiah thirst to quench the spiritual thirst of ll mankind
  • On Mount Calvary, God, who clothes the lilies of the fields, let His son hang naked and in shame for all to see and mock in derision and shame.
  • On Mount Calvary, this precious little child who lay so innocently in a cradle in an animals’ stall in Bethlehem, now hung helpless and dying on a criminal’s cross in view of friend and foe alike.
  • On Mount Calvary, earth has no darker sin, history no blacker page, humanity no fouler spot than the crucifixion of Jesus.

the cross

The old hymn states:  “He did it all for me.  When the Savior cried, bowed HIs head and died, He did it all for me.”

 

Whatever Happened to Sin?

We seem to have done away with sin.  No one sins.  They make mistakes.  They “mess up.”

In “The Thirteen Clocks” author James Thurber has a character who states:

“We all have our weaknesses; mine just happens to be that I am evil.”

If there is no sin, only weaknesses, mistakes, character flaws, the whole point of Good Friday and Easter is meaningless.

“Why is sin sinful, not just a “little weakness”?  Who says sin is sin?  One of the words the Bible uses to refer to sin means “to miss the mark,” implying that there is a mark or target that has been missed, so the word sin itself implies a standard.  If a highway patrolman stops you for speeding, it implies that the official government has set a speed limit, and you violated it.  Similarly, the moral standard for all humanity comes right out of the holy character of God.  His glory, his holiness, is the standard we all fall short of.”

When we are enjoying our favorite foods and entertainments, it can be easy to forget the decay of sin and death all around us.  Lent helps us remember that there is only one who actually reverses decay – the God who raises the dead.”….Timothy G. Walton

For me I think I have heard the story of the cross and the resurrection so much that I just take it all for granted.  But this season of Lent, I am thankful for the price Jesus paid for us all.

 

 

Where Is Our Reverence?

Posted this in 2015 but in this season of Lent – still worth thinking about.

Grandma's Ramblings

AWE-FULL

Great and holy God

awe and reverence

fear and trembling

do no come easily to us

for we are not

Old Testament Jews

or Moses

or mystics

or sensitive enough.

Forgive us

for slouching into Your presence

with little expectation

and less awe

than we would eagerly give a visiting dignitary.

We need

neither Jehovah nor a buddy—

neither “the Great and powerful Oz” nor “the man upstairs.”

Help us

to want what we need…

You

God

and may the altar of our hearts

tremble with delight

at Your visitation

amen.

Frederick Ohler

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Tradition in Religion – Good? Bad?

This past week I was at a women’s Bible study when our leader asked us:

What is today?

Everyone immediately called out:

It’s Valentine’s day!

valentine.png

She then asked us:

But what else is it?

Sadly, only a few realized it was the beginning of Lent, it was Ash Wednesday.

ash wed

For this week’s lesson we had been asked to read the first 15 chapters of Exodus.  Strange you might think to read in Exodus when you are studying in Mark.  Our leader used Exodus to point out to us the similarities between Moses leading the Israelites out of bondage in Egypt and our belief that Jesus came to lead us out of bondage to sin.

She shared with us the tradition of Passover and how the Jewish people at Passover reflect on their past deliverance from slavery and look forward to the coming of the Messiah.  She said, for the Jewish people, celebration of Passover allows them to:

experience what they do not remember and to remember what they have not experienced.

During the Passover time, the story of how God delivered the Jewish nation is recalled.  Though the present generation naturally cannot remember that event from thousands of years ago, through the special food and the retelling of the story, they take time to try to understand what their ancestors experienced that night.   They take time to remember what they did not experience and let it give them hope and encouragement as they look forward to the fulfillment of Moses’ prophecy when he shared the word of God:

I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him.

As Christians we celebrate our own time of deliverance from bondage and we look forward to the return of our Lord and Savior.  With His death and resurrection He gave us freedom from the bondage of sin.  We now celebrate this important event every year just as the Jews celebrate Passover.  We call it Easter but I think a better name would have been Resurrection Sunday.

Many churches at this time observe Lent.

Lent is a season of forty days, not counting Sundays, which begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday. Lent comes from the Anglo Saxon word lencten, which means “spring.” The forty days represents the time Jesus spent in the wilderness, enduring the temptation of Satan and preparing to begin his ministry.

Lent is a time of repentance, fasting and preparation for the coming of Easter. It is a time of self-examination and reflection. In the early church, Lent was a time to prepare new converts for baptism. Today, Christians focus on their relationship with God, often choosing to give up something or to volunteer and give of themselves for others.

Sundays in Lent are not counted in the forty days because each Sunday represents a “mini-Easter” and the reverent spirit of Lent is tempered with joyful anticipation of the Resurrection…..from the United Methodist website

Coming from an evangelical background I never observed Ash Wednesday or Lent as a child.  To be honest (please forgive me my dear Catholic friends), my church thought the whole “ashes on the forehead” and giving up something for Lent was simply “tradition.”  And we all knew that Jesus condemned traditions of men.  Right?  We go to the Gospel of Mark and the encounter Jesus had with the Pharisees when they questioned why His disciples did not follow the traditional washing of hands before they ate.  We know Jesus said, in part,

And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.

Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered:

So we have taken pride in rejecting the “tradition” of the mainline denominations.  We have felt that we were somehow more “spiritual” because we, like Jesus, rejected religious tradition.

But, in rejecting many of the traditions of the other churches, have we thrown the baby out with the bath water?

This week I have continued to think of how the Jewish people still observe Passover.  It is not just a meal that they hurriedly consume and move on.  There are days of preparation as they remove all trace of yeast from their homes and prepare the special food they will eat at the Sedar.  They take time to really remember their past deliverance and look forward to their expected future.  There is a lot of thought and reflection in this time.

As I look at our evangelical Christian community, I see little time spend in real reflection on what Good Friday and Easter should mean to us.  We might attend a short Good Friday service, but for most of us Easter is one service on Sunday morning celebrating the resurrection.  Little or no time is spent reflecting on what Good Friday really meant.  We take no time to reflect on our own lives and as the Jews remove yeast from their homes, ask God to help us remove from our lives the things that hinder our walk with Him.

I feel I missed something growing up without observing Lent.  Without taking time from my busy schedule to take a closer look at my own life, to really remember the pain and suffering Jesus went through for me.

To take a long hard look at the cross

the cross

before I rush into celebrating the empty tomb.

tomb

The dictionary says a tradition is a belief or behavior passed down within a group or society with symbolic meaning or special significance with origins in the past.  Perhaps some of the break down in our society today is the failure to pass on beliefs or behaviors that were the very foundation of our own lives.  The word is derived from the Latin tradere and literally means to transmit, to hand over, to give for safekeeping.

So, I ask myself as I reflect on Lent this year:

  • Are we missing something in rejecting some of those traditions of the church?
  • Are our children really understanding the true meaning of  Easter or Christmas when we make it basically a one-service event at church and little more?
  • Should we not take more time in celebrating the events of Good Friday and Easter?

I’m not ready to put ashes on my forehead (again forgive me my dear Catholic friends), but I’m taking time this year to observe this season of Lent and do more serious reflection on what my Savior’s death really means.  Not just an empty tomb, but pain and suffering that He took on Himself for me.

Give me some tradition!

Hosanna – Save Me!

 Hosanna in the Highest!

Growing up in a typical Protestant home, I heard over and over how the crowds cried out in praise as Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey on Palm Sunday.  Often we would wave palm branches while singing, “Hosanna!”  This was all based on the familiar verses in the Gospels.

And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.

For many years I have sang songs of praise crying “Hosanna” thinking I was just singing a praise to God.

What a fickle bunch!

Before the week was out, the crowd was crying “Crucify him!”

Many sermons have been preached on how changeable, how unreliable the crowd in Jerusalem was.   Many have questioned how they could praise Him one day and cry out for His death a few days later.  Of course, some have said this was two different groups of people.

The Jewish Bible

Recently I have been reading the New Testament in the Complete Jewish Bible.  This Bible is an English version fully Jewish in style and presentation. It includes Dr. Stern’s new version of the “Tanakh” (“Old Testament”) and his highly acclaimed “Jewish New Testament.”  This Bible follows the Hebrew Bible order of the Tanakh’s books.  This would be the order as Jesus knew it.  It helps to connect Christians with the Jewish roots of our religion and connects Jews with the Jewishness of Messiah Yeshua (Christ Jesus).  It offers the original Hebrew names for people, places and concepts.

Dr. Stern states that his purpose for producing the Complete Jewish Bible was “to restore God’s Word to its original Jewish context and culture as well as be in easily read modern English.”

Reading that same verse in the Jewish Bible has given me a new outlook on that day – and on my own relationship with Messiah Yeshua.

The crowds ahead of him and behind shouted, “Please! Deliver us!” to the Son of David; “Blessed is he who comes in the name of Adonai!” “You in the highest heaven! Please! Deliver us

They were quoting from the Psalms – their songbook – their praise book – their poetry book.

Please, Adonai! Save us! Please, Adonai! Rescue us!  blessed is he who comes in the name of AdonaiWe bless you from the house of Adonai.

While I have always thought of the word “Hosanna” as a praise to God – and clearly they were praising Jesus as He rode into Jerusalem – reading it with the original Jewish meaning, it has taken on a new life to me.

Hosanna is a combination of two Jewish words:  yasha and na.

Yasha

to deliver – NASB Translation –  avenged, avenging, brought salvation, deliver, delivered, deliverer, deliverers, deliverers who delivered, delivers, endowed with salvation, gained the victory, help, helped, preserve, safe, save, saved, saves, savior,  victorious.

Na

I (we) pray, now – NASB Translation – beg, beseech, come, implore, may, now, Oh may, please, please, pray.

They were praising Jesus – but why?  Because they saw Him coming to save them from the Roman occupation, to rescue them from a life of servitude to Rome.  Their praises were for a conquering hero, not a dying savior.

He turned out to not be what they expected – not what they wanted!

I do not know if the crowd on Palm Sunday was the same as the crowd on Good Friday, but I can understand how they could have been the same.  They could praise Him when they thought He would meet their needs in the way they wanted.  But praise could easily turn to scorn when they saw their needs would not be met in the way they wanted.

Am I any different?

Often I go to God in prayer and my prayers consist of telling Him not only what I need or want, but exactly how to meet my need or want.  My prayers sometimes sound more like a grocery list of what I want or a set of instructions to a servant on what he needs to do for me.

When God does not answer my prayers as I think He should, often I turn to complaining or questioning His love and wisdom.

Limited knowledge and understanding

The crowds in Jerusalem that week had limited knowledge and understanding of God’s eternal plan.  If He had overthrown the Roman government they would still have been in need of a Savior.  The real need would still be there.

How often does God have a bigger and better plan in mind for me?  How often have I thrown away His “better” plans because I wanted to settle for a “good” plan of my own?

“Hosanna” or “Save me?”

When I sing “Hosanna” on Palm Sunday this year, I hope I can really realize what I am singing.  Not just some “meaningless praise word” but a cry to God recognizing how much I need His salvation – how much I need Him to rescue me.  Let it be a cry for help and a surrender to His answer for me as well as a song of praise!